3 Ways Weather Impacts Corporate Environmental Health and Safety

  • Jul 14, 2017

Environmental health and safety management (EHS) is the key for corporations aspiring to be better environmental stewards. Successful EHS programs focus on environmental compliance and sustainability as well as overall worker health and well-being. EHS is a very important, yet behind the scenes aspect of any commercial or government organization.

Recently, EHS leaders have started to go beyond compliance. Common initiatives from the leaders in EHS include tasks like developing and leading formal sustainability programs, communicating enterprise EHS risks, and responding to stakeholder inquiries. By advocating for the environment and workers alike, EHS engineers and scientists bring a highly specialized skill set to their work. However, this work can be quite challenging.

There are plenty of complications that can get in the way of an EHS manager’s goals, like faulty equipment or new environmental regulations. One of the least explored yet most common of these threats is the weather.

The weather has a direct impact on any working environment. This impact is even stronger for corporations with outdoor or remote employees. Storms, air quality, and lightning present challenges to many different facets of EHS management.

While most people think checking the weather in the morning is enough, you’ll see that these problems can arise in the blink of an eye. Let’s look at 3 common ways weather impacts EHS efforts and what you can do to mitigate these risks in real time.

3 Ways Weather Impacts Corporate Environmental Health and Safety

1. Managing Waste

The first EHS responsibility that severe weather can disrupt is waste management. It’s imperative that EHS managers not only adhere to regulations when it comes to waste management, but also create a systematic approach to managing waste. If this systematic approach does not include flood management, you are not prepared.

If a large storm with heavy rainfall passes through your operational area(s) your waste management plan could be in a lot of trouble. Intense flooding can ruin the environment around your workplace if your waste management system is compromised. Pollution in the form of runoff is common after heavy rainfall and flash floods. After the flood, the threat isn’t over. Waste provides a fertile breeding ground for disease, which can compromise worker health.

Not only can flooding cause run-off pollution and disease, but it can also cause even bigger problems. In 2015, flooding in Accra, Ghana killed 25 people when the influx of water created an explosion at a gas station.

To combat weather’s effect on waste management, corporations should research rainfall totals for their area(s) of operation and install sustainable drainage systems adequate enough to handle heavy rains.

2. Worker Health

Flooding isn’t the only weather risk threatening EHS at commercial and government corporations. Air quality and high temperatures can also threaten a safe work environment.

Air quality issues are tricky because you can’t see that there is a problem. Unless you receive air quality alerts or use a weather monitoring system, you’re unaware that danger is even present. And believe it or not, poor air quality can be very dangerous. This is true for both indoor and outdoor employees. Airborne contaminants inside your facility can harm your employees’ health at certain levels of exposure as well. Dust and weld fumes are two common forms of pollutants found indoors.

By monitoring and controlling air quality both outdoors and indoors, you can improve worker productivity, recruitment, and retention. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found a 4.2% improvement in worker productivity when indoor air pollution levels were reduced by 10 ppb.

3. Workplace Safety

At any organization, The best EHS managers have a comprehensive safety plan that includes severe weather protection.

One underrated workplace safety threat is lightning. Both indirect and direct lightning strikes can shut down operations, injure, and even kill workers. According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes the earth nearly 20 million times each year. What would you do if your operation was struck?

The best way to protect workers from cloud-to-ground lightning strikes is to be prepared. Knowing a storm is coming before you are in danger is the first step. This is important because lightning can strike from over 15 miles away. Moving outdoor employees to safety before a storm comes protects them but shows them you care about their well-being.

Investing in a lightning strike detection and mapping system that is powered by a total lightning network is the only way to maximize your response lead times. Unlike “lightning prediction” systems on the market today, total lightning detection is much more accurate. This is because total lightning actually measures both in-cloud lightning strikes and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. Total lightning most accurately depicts the strength and direction of a storm and predicts other forms of severe weather like hail and microbursts.

Communication During Severe Weather Events

While preparing for these severe weather events is extremely important to maintain safety, your response is important as well. If you are not prepared to deal with weather-induced EHS hazards then you’re setting up your organization to fail. This is especially true if your operational facilities are in areas where severe weather is common or if your workforce is outdoors or remote.

Mobile weather alerts are a great way to keep all EHS staff aware of developing weather-related risks. Customizable applications that allow you to choose the conditions that matter to you, like rainfall, air quality, and lightning, are even more effective because they are personalized to your location and delivered in real-time.

To learn more about improving your corporation’s preparation and response to weather-related environmental, health, and safety risks, contact the Earth Networks team.